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German court convicts Palestinian man over deadly 2014 attack in Yarmouk camp

A German court on Thursday convicted Moafak Dawah , a Palestinian-Syrian man of a war crime and murder for launching a grenade into a crowd of civilians waiting for food in Damascus in 2014. He was sentenced to life in prison.

Zaman al-Wasl was the first news outlet to reveal the identity of Dawah in July 2020.

The 55-year-old was arrested in 2021 in Berlin, where he had been living as a refugee. His trial opened in August.

The German capital's district court found that the defendant on March 23, 2014, fired a grenade from an anti-tank weapon into the crowd in the Yarmouk district of Damascus, killing four people and seriously wounding two others.

It said that he was the commander of a checkpoint for a Palestinian group, probably the Free Palestine Movement, and on the day in question also was supposed to be overseeing a distribution of food packages by the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, the AP reported.

The court said that part of the district was at the time controlled by militias loyal to President Bashar Assad’s government.

The Yarmouk district, which grew out of a Palestinian refugee camp, was cordoned off by the Syrian government from July 2013 to April 2015, causing shortages of food, water and medical supplies.

The court said the defendant acted out of revenge against civilians in the district after his 25-year-old nephew was killed two days earlier by shots fired by opponents of Assad's government.

He was convicted of a particularly serious war crime, four counts of murder, two counts of attempted murder and bodily harm. The court also determined that he bears particularly severe guilt, meaning that he won't be eligible for release after 15 years as is usually the case in Germany.

The verdict can be appealed.

Germany’s application of the rule of “universal jurisdiction,” allowing the prosecution of serious crimes committed abroad, led last year to the first conviction of a senior Syrian official for crimes against humanity.

Justice Minister Marco Buschmann on Thursday proposed reforms to the system. Those would include allowing victims of crimes against humanity and war crimes to join trials in Germany as co-plaintiffs, and providing for interpretation at trials for non-German speaking media.

They also would see charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes encompassing “sexual slavery.”

Dawah was one of the most prominent leaders in the Popular Committees of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC). 

According to the sources, Dawah, who was living in the Yarmouk Refugee Camp, south of Damsacus, participated in the rape of women from the Yarmouk camp in the al-Bashir Mosque, as well as in the Ali al-Wahsh massacre in which dozens of demonstrators were killed and arrested, and hundreds were disappeared.

 He was directly responsible for firing an RPG at civilians in Yarmouk camp during the distribution of humanitarian aid, and starving the residents of the camp as well as bombing and destroying the area. 

Dawah was one of the most dangerous leaders of the Palestinian militias, eye-witnesses said. 

After the outbreak of the revolution, Dawah, along with Abu Mohamed Sarriya, a senior militia commander, participated in attempts to suppress protests in the neighborhoods of Tadamon, Zahira and al-Midan south of the capital. 

According to an eye-witness, who spoke on condition of anonymity, “Dawah was one of the first people to join Ahmed Jibril’s militia, leading one of the groups that worked to suppress demonstrations in Yarmouk, Hajar al-Aswad, and Yalda, in addition to participating in the battles against the Free Syrian Army factions in the region.” 

Another witness said that Dawah was one of the leaders of the fighting groups in the military wing of the Free Palestine Movement, al-Aqsa Shield Forces led by Saed al-Abdel, which was confirmed by the photos obtained by Zaman al-Wasl’s investigation team in which Dawah and his group appear with the flags and slogans of the militia behind them.

According to the witness, Muwafaq al-Dawah is accused by Yarmouk’s residents of the rape of the women of the camp in the al-Bashir Mosque, which was documented by Action Group for Palestinians of Syria, and other crimes.


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